Thursday, April 12, 2012

If I Stay, by Gayle Forman

Summary (from

In the blink of an eye everything changes. Seventeen ­year-old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall what happened afterwards, watching her own damaged body being taken from the wreck. Little by little she struggles to put together the pieces- to figure out what she has lost, what she has left, and the very difficult choice she must make. Heartwrenchingly beautiful, Mia's story will stay with you for a long, long time.

Interesting Characters?: Yes
Doing Interesting Things?: Interesting, only sort of. But definitely unique and thought-provoking!
Told in an Intelligent Way?: Yes

If I Stay is a beautiful book, there's no doubt about that. Gayle Forman writes in a poetic, haunting voice that kept me mesmerized-I read this book in one extended sitting. It's a short book, only 200 pages, but they pack a mean punch.

The book is told through a series of flashbacks, interspersed with the present-day circumstances of her accident. You don't know much about Mia towards the beginning of the book (which is true of any non-serialized novel, I mean obviously Kat!), but you learn all about her as you experience her memories, which are all triggered by current events. The memories are joyful, sweet, honest, painful... just as any person's memories would be. But the way they make up Mia is remarkable.

Mia isn't what I'd call an exciting character, but she's real. I can see her coming down the street, in my classes in high school, even a few qualities in her that I recognize in myself. She's confused about what to do, in both past and present. As you re-experience her memories and see what she's got going on now, you sit there and contemplate... what would I do? It's not cut and dry. The rest of the characters are much like Mia - not super exciting, but relatable. Memorable. I know these people and I get why they act as they do.

I don't know how to express my thoughts on the book. I don't think there's much to "spoil," per se - there aren't twists and turns like so many of the popular books out there today. But the beauty of the book is how you, the reader, go through Mia's journey with her. You learn her background and you experience her struggles. The language is also beautiful. Haunting is really the best word I can use, especially towards the end. It's not the kind of poetry that makes me, impatient-reader Katherine, annoyed. It's sparse and to the point, but clearly well-crafted.

And it's sad. I think it's fair to say that much, no spoiler-alert necessary. Sad, bittersweet, and achingly lovely.

So we've got characters that are multifaceted yet simple. We've got the juxtaposition of the current and the past. And we've got a terrific writer who writes with an achingly lovely voice. Ultimately, I say the final verdict is a Success!

If I Stay on 

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